4 January 2009

Privacy: a Human Right but not in Britain

"Privacy is a fundamental human right. It underpins human dignity and other values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech. The act of censorship may occur through enacting surveillance, and enacting forms of censorship may result in surveillance. Technology is a key component to these strategies and mechanisms."

Leading surveillance societies in the EU and the World: Britain is in the bottom five 'black' category of countries demonstrating 'endemic surveillance.'[click on image to see map]

Human Rights Act: Privacy

(1) Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.


Police set to step up hacking of home PCs

by David Leppard

THE Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.

The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs. They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives “a coach and horses” through privacy laws.

The hacking is known as “remote searching”. It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.

Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.

Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.

A remote search can be granted if a senior officer says he “believes” that it is “proportionate” and necessary to prevent or detect serious crime — defined as any offence attracting a jail sentence of more than three years.

However, opposition MPs and civil liberties groups say that the broadening of such intrusive surveillance powers should be regulated by a new act of parliament and court warrants.

They point out that in contrast to the legal safeguards for searching a suspect’s home, police undertaking a remote search do not need to apply to a magistrates’ court for a warrant.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, said she would challenge the legal basis of the move. “These are very intrusive powers – as intrusive as someone busting down your door and coming into your home,” she said.

“The public will want this to be controlled by new legislation and judicial authorisation. Without those safeguards it’s a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy.”

She said the move had parallels with the warrantless police search of the House of Commons office of Damian Green, the Tory MP: “It’s like giving police the power to do a Damian Green every day but to do it without anyone even knowing you were doing it.”

Richard Clayton, a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said that remote searches had been possible since 1994, although they were very rare. An amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 made hacking legal if it was authorised and carried out by the state.

He said the authorities could break into a suspect’s home or office and insert a “key-logging” device into an individual’s computer. This would collect and, if necessary, transmit details of all the suspect’s keystrokes. “It’s just like putting a secret camera in someone’s living room,” he said.

Police might also send an e-mail to a suspect’s computer. The message would include an attachment that contained a virus or “malware”. If the attachment was opened, the remote search facility would be covertly activated. Alternatively, police could park outside a suspect’s home and hack into his or her hard drive using the wireless network.

Police say that such methods are necessary to investigate suspects who use cyberspace to carry out crimes. These include paedophiles, internet fraudsters, identity thieves and terrorists.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A spokesman said police were already carrying out a small number of these operations which were among 194 clandestine searches last year of people’s homes, offices and hotel bedrooms.

“To be a valid authorisation, the officer giving it must believe that when it is given it is necessary to prevent or detect serious crime and [the] action is proportionate to what it seeks to achieve,” Acpo said.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, agreed that the development may benefit law enforcement. But he added: “The exercise of such intrusive powers raises serious privacy issues. The government must explain how they would work in practice and what safeguards will be in place to prevent abuse.”

The Home Office said it was working with other EU states to develop details of the proposals.


Source: The Times Online


More:

Privacy International on Great Britain
An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Practice
Home Office: Human Rights Unit
European Court of Human Rights
Human Rights Act (1998)
Liberty: Human Rights Campaigners


3 comments:

  1. It would be very naief if people would believe such things don't happen in their own country, only in Britain.
    Spionage has always existed everywhere and it is what keeps a country equilibrated.The way of spying has changed, they can break in a computer and find out what is going on.Unfortunately this is necessary to keep peace in the world and to protect innocent children victims of porno and of child sex abuse.Human rights include also child safety.Don't think Britain is the only place where they are spying.Everywhere in the world, believe me.This has always happened through human history.Speaking about children, murders and terrorism, I wish every secret service and police a lot of luck.And let us hope they will find out what really happened to Madeleine.

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  2. Hi Joana

    Human rights are qualified rights, that is the State can interfere with that right in order to investigate or prevent crime. I believe this proposal is for that reason only and the figures show that it is something we in the UK would very rarely do. We do have some very serious criminals in the UK and I personally think it is reasonable that the State has the power to utilise modern technology to the full in the fight against crime, whether it be child abuse in all its form, drug trafficking, terrorism whatever.

    Take the McCann case for example, the Police clearly want to solve this case. Gerry likes blogging...(!) It would be no use asking his permission to snoop on his internet traffic, but would any of us complain if the Police actually managed to finally get conclusive evidence by this means. We have put many dangerous terrorists in prison by such methods. Those who are law abiding have no reasons to fear, it is very expensive to monitor people like this and it is only done with very good cause.

    Viv xxxx

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  3. Does this mean double standards, in the Madeleine McCann case didn't the UK authorities refuse to provide information on the Tapas group mobile phone calls in the name of privacy?

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